Isle of Man

Lead Mining in Laxey - Part 4


The washing floors


The lead ore was put in wagons and taken by steam train  to the washing floors further down the Laxey valley. It was tipped down stone chutes into large bunkers.

Washing floors, Laxey

The ore was broken by hand and tipped onto a large revolving table called the ‘chat’. Waste stone was removed by hand into into wagons and pushed along a tramway on the river bank to be tipped on land opposite Dumbell Terrace, known as the Deads. It was a very conspicuous feature of the valley until some of it was used to widen the northern end of Douglas Promenade and to construct the airfield at Jurby. 

After further mechanical crushing, the ore was tipped into jiggers which were large sieves. These were filled with water and shaken, causing the ore and waste stone to separate into layers.

The ore was then further refined in buddles which were circular pits. The ore was sprayed with water and stirred with a revolving arm to separate the ore. The waste water was finally put into ’slime pits’ where the very fine particles of ore settled and could be removed when the pits were emptied.

Water power was used to work the machinery and a series of waterwheels were built down the valley to reuse the water as often as possible. In 2006, a waterwheel from the Snaefell mine further up the valley was installed in a wheel pit in the washing floors.

Washing floors, Laxey

With the rapid expansion of the mines in the 1860s, the washing floors were extended further down the valley to where the sheltered housing is now.

There is no coal in the Isle of Man and it was uneconomic to import coal. The washed ore was taken by a horse drawn tramway to the harbour and shipped to the UK for smelting.

When the mines closed, the washing floors were left derelict. The area has been cleared and landscaped to form Laxey Gardens and is used as a wedding venue.

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